With the offseason now in full swing, all eyes will first be turned to the Seattle Kraken. The NHL’s newest franchise will begin constructing its roster with the expansion draft on July 21. The other 30 teams that will be taking part are undoubtedly keeping the expansion draft in mind when making decisions. Among these are the Philadelphia Flyers, who, in preparing for the draft, made it known that they do not intend to protect veteran Jakub Voracek from being selected by Seattle.
Voracek has played 13 NHL seasons between the Blue Jackets and the Flyers and served as an alternate captain for the Flyers during the 2019-20 season. He has produced over 80 points twice, both times landing in the top-five NHL leaders in assists. Voracek also ranked fifth in the NHL in points in 2014-15 with 81. While his career accolades are impressive, the Kraken would be best served avoiding him in the expansion draft. General manager Ron Francis should have better options more closely aligned with what he is trying to build in Seattle.
In starting from scratch, the leadership of the league’s newest team needs to establish which direction they want to take the team. Francis started hinting at this when he began hiring his coaching staff. The picks to join Dave Hakstol behind the bench are young coaches who specialize in developing young talent. Bringing in coaches with these qualities hints at Francis’ willingness to load up on young players and build a team that can compete in the future.
In a recent interview, Francis also touched on how he thinks his team will fare with expectations after the immediate success of the Vegas Golden Knights. The Kraken GM is doing things according to expectations and standards that have been established internally, attempting to ignore the noise from outside. So, the front office for Seattle will certainly be aware that comparisons will be made, but they’ll be prepared to build whatever type of team they believe will be best suited to win.
Concerns with Voracek
Voracek seems like a good candidate on the surface; he has playoff experience, is a proven leader, has produced consistently at the highest level, and the list goes on. However, if the team is truly committed to planning for the future, there should be better options in the Flyers organization than the Czech winger. There is little doubt coach Hakstol would like to reconnect with one of the most talented players he’s coached, but he and his staff should be looking to Francis to find young pieces for them to develop.
There is little concern around Voracek’s talent, but he is entering his age-32 season and his production levels have remained extremely consistent over the past three years. While it’s good to see him producing at steady levels, there’s no telling when the output can suddenly decrease. What Seattle doesn’t want is to all of a sudden be looking at a player making over $8 million per season for the next three years who appears to be at the tail end of his career. These are the unfortunate aspects that need to be considered when evaluating the prospect of Voracek joining the new franchise.
Who Fits the Bill?
Seattle has to select someone from the Flyers, so if it isn’t Voracek, who might their best options be? In leaving Voracek exposed, the Flyers could keep forwards Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes, who have no-movement clauses, Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, Oskar Lindblom, and for the purpose of this exercise perhaps James van Riemsdyk and Scott Laughton. On defense, Ivan Provorov, Philippe Myers, and Travis Sanheim leave little room for debate aside from fans of Shayne Gostisbehere. Finally, few will argue that Carter Hart looks to be the future of the goaltending position for Philadelphia, making him the no-brainer option to protect.
If the aforementioned players are kept from the Kraken, there are still a handful of options that seem to have more upside than Voracek does entering the back half of his career. There’s a strong case for Nolan Patrick to be protected, but the pending RFA’s future with the team is unclear and he’s a very intriguing option if left exposed. At age 22 and formerly considered the consensus top talent in his draft class, Patrick could revitalize his career with a fresh start.
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Gostisbehere also makes sense due to making a somewhat reasonable $4.5 million per year over the next two seasons. His play has been inconsistent over the past two seasons, but he could also benefit from a fresh start. A third, less obvious candidate could be 25-year-old Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who has emerged as a solid fourth-line talent for the Flyers and could be a good, cheap bottom-six player to add to the foundation of Seattle’s offense.
There is little doubt that Francis will do his homework over the next week to ensure he is prepared for whatever strategy the Flyers employ ahead of the draft. Many fans will be calling for big names to be added to the roster, and there is value in filling seats, but the team must be careful to pick the right crop of core players. Getting stuck in a bad long-term contract would be a terrible way to start a new franchise.
Covering the New York Islanders and Seattle Kraken for The Hockey Writers. MBA Sports & Entertainment Management Candidate at Hofstra University. Formerly Marketing Intern with the American Flag Football League & Operations Intern for the Long Island Nets, G-League Affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets.